Addington Hospital File picture: Independent Media
Addington Hospital File picture: Independent Media

Denosa lambastes KZN Health Department’s response to Covid-19 crisis

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Jan 15, 2021

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THE Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) in KwaZulu-Natal has expressed its disappointment in the provincial Health Department’s “poor response” to the second wave of Covid-19 in the province.

Over the past few weeks, nurses, doctors and paramedics repeatedly said that there were no beds available in hospitals while field hospitals remained closed. Hospital mortuaries were also a cause for concern as rumours alleged bodies were lying in wards and mortuary floors.

Towards the end of the first wave, for three weeks, four Denosa teams visited hospitals in all 11 KZN districts. They targeted hospitals which were mainly for Covid-19 and patients under investigation.

Denosa KZN provincial secretary Mandla Shabangu said some of the hospitals they visited were Prince Mshiyeni Memorial, Addington, Wentworth, Murchison, Edendale, Grey’s, Madadeni, Dundee, Greytown, Catherine Booth and Mseleni.

Shabangu said the reason for the visits was to find out what were the common problems during the first wave and check on the impact of the second wave.

What they found was a gross shortage of staff due to infections and deaths because of Covid-19; inadequate and poor personal protective equipment (PPE); overcrowding; lack of psychological support staff; and staff being forced to sign normal sick leave for Covid-19, which is against the Department of Public Service and Administration circular 7 of 2020.

Based on their visits, they drafted a plan to be shared with the Health Department.

He said they had also requested a resurgence plan and a meeting to discuss and give input on the plan before the resurgence.

“There was a meeting last week, but the department said they did not have the plan with them and cannot share it. On Monday, I received a draft mentioning the challenges in the first wave and nothing on how to face the second wave,” said Shabangu.

“Denosa is currently discussing how to take this forward.”

Shabangu said the department was not ready for the second wave and they were starting to believe that there was no plan.

KZN Health Department HOD Dr Sandile Tshabalala said this month Shabangu had an opportunity for a meeting which he started and then left him with department officials. On Monday, Shabangu was given a plan on how the department was managing the resurgence, a 62-page document.

“We’ve always been aware that with the second wave, our numbers are increasing and we always have plans which we continue to implement. We always have meetings every morning to discuss Covid-19 and then engage all people involved,” said Tshabalala.

He said they ensured their institutions had occupational health and safety committees, employee assistance programmes to support their staff, made sure there is PPE and had enough PPE.

“We are using a plan that we devised long ago, and I think the draft Shabangu has, is a draft from November. It’s a draft that we change as and when the rules and regulations are changing,” said Tshabalala.

SIDE BAR

Denosa’s recommendations to assist its healthcare workers in dealing with the second wave:

1. Urgent filling of all vacant posts caused by deaths due to Covid-19 and other diseases before the end of March 2021 while the posts are still funded as well as establishment of a relief pool of staff in all districts to assist when nurses go for isolation and or quarantine.

2. Urgent employment of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) staff in all institutions to provide psychological support to staff.

3. Department to issue full PPE to all staff irrespective of whether they are in a Covid ward or not to minimise transmissions.

4. Urgently implement national guidelines on vulnerable employees by ensuring that all institutions have functional Institutional Risk Assessment Committees (IRAC) to ensure that guidelines are implemented in terms of vulnerable employees.

5. Refurbish all staff tea rooms to allow for social distancing to minimise cross infection.

6. Department to withdraw HRM circular 41 of 2020 on Covid leave to allow staff to get special leave for Covid-19 as per DPSA circular 7 of 2020*

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